Quick Review: “The Pagan King”

Medieval Pagan Latvians

Some 13th-century Latvian Pagans get the bad news: the  crusading Brothers of the Sword are coming, and their choice will be death, baptism, or both.

My “Pagan-ish” blog tag seems mostly to go to Latvian materials, and here is another one, The Pagan King.

Set in the 13th century, when the Baltic peoples were to be the last Europeans Christianized at sword’s point, it is the story of a young man named king of Semigallia, a region now mostly encompassed by the nation of Latvia.

He does not know it, but his land is the target of one Max von Buxhoeveden (probably based on this bishop), who has gained the pope’s blessing to lead a crusade against the Semigallian Pagans.1)This would probably be Pope Innocent III, who in the movie is capable of carrying out his own poisoning and stabbing — staples of the medieval pagacy — instead of contracting such activities out to professionals.

Namejs, the young king, is called to the throne just as he is about to lead a trading voyage to Constantinople. Without much preparation, he is thrust into a role of negotiating tribal alliances and trying to determine whom he can trust, all the while facing an invasion.2)In other words, 97 percent of human history. His people must adjust from celebrating Midsummer with happy lake-jumping and torch-lit Semigallian football matches (Shirts versus Skins) to all-out war.

In terms of the religion, The Pagan King punts the football, to use American rather than Semingallian rules. Although there is a wonderful sanctuary of standing stones and caves, the script speaks only of “the gods who are within us.” Not even Perkons (Perkunas) is name-checked. On the other hand, Namejs’ wife does appear to speak a little Snakish — is that a Latvian motif?

The costuming and set design seems to be a spin-off of the 2013–2019 History Channel television series Vikings. There are not enough beehives in Semegallia to produce wax for that many candles!!

In this movie, however, keep your eye on characters with the shaven head-plus-long beard “Ragnar Lothbrok” look. They are never what they seem.

Unless you cannot tolerate medieval battle scenes, of which there are several, you should watch The Pagan King. Here is the trailer:

Notes   [ + ]

1. This would probably be Pope Innocent III, who in the movie is capable of carrying out his own poisoning and stabbing — staples of the medieval pagacy — instead of contracting such activities out to professionals.
2. In other words, 97 percent of human history.

4 thoughts on “Quick Review: “The Pagan King”

  1. Do you have a link to the whole movie/series, or know where it could be found?

  2. I really liked November, so I will check this one out too. It always bothers me that the actors in these things tend to have such modern looking hair though.

    • Yes, quite a variety here, from neo-Viking to just any old thing. The spectrum of colors seems deliberately muted. Medieval people did have access to more colors than cream and tan and pale green.

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